Working with teenagers in South Africa: My education internship abroad
By Kate Rau
Brooke Porter, a Robertson Scholar at Duke University, spent eight weeks in South Africa this summer. She completed an education internship in Cape Town at a non-profit organization that advocates for after-school programs to help vulnerable teenagers. We spoke with Brooke about her education internship and asked her how her time spent working with young South Africans has impacted her future career and study plans in education.
Tell us about the type of work responsibilities you were given
My host organization runs multiple after-school interventions for teens from disadvantaged backgrounds. The programs run at six after-school centers and offer young adults a space of support, motivation and an opportunity to learn new things. I participated in both administrative and hands-on activities at the centers. I developed a holiday program for the after-school centers and I also created and facilitated an acting program and a debate program. I loved running the after-school sessions, sometimes with over 30 teens, because it meant I got to spend time with some incredible young adults. I loved seeing the smiles on their faces and hearing about their dreams and aspirations for the future.
I also wrote and submitted a proposal to raise funds for students participating in an animation class at a local art academy. I compiled blog posts for the organization’s website and I helped edit and prepare material for their Annual Report.
I thoroughly enjoyed the energy at my workplace.
The majority of my co-workers were women, which fostered an empowering and comfortable workplace for me. People were obviously very passionate about their work with the learners, but still took time to make jokes and have fun in their day.
Tell us about your favorite day at work
We celebrated a birthday at one of the after-school centers.
For the first part of the day we did an acting workshop with different improvisation activities that the learners loved.
Then the facilitator cooked traditional Xhosa food for everyone and we all ate, talked, laughed, and took pictures. It was a great day!
What have you learnt as a result of your internship?
This experience has helped me to realize that I definitely want to pursue a career related to education. Working with a non-profit and handling a wide variety of responsibilities showed me that teaching isn’t the only way to work with kids and be involved with education. I also learned how to adapt and be flexible when it comes to my work.
What did you not expect?
I knew about South Africa’s history, and about Apartheid, but I didn’t expect to see the jarring reality of the impact of that lasting legacy on people’s lives. The racial gap that divides the wealthy residents of Cape Town and those of the townships is something I’m still processing. On my daily commute to work I saw how the wealthy live in sprawling properties along the coast and the impoverished live in shacks in townships. Although South Africa is now “free”, I witnessed how its people are still separated by race and poverty.
What would you say to anyone considering this type of internship?
If you’re interested in policy and history, do an internship in South Africa. Cape Town as a destination offers so much more than just breathtaking scenery and beautiful surrounds. You can’t have an authentic and whole experience of Cape Town without learning about South Africa’s past and how the legacy of Apartheid has affected the reality of life for people today.
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